FAIRHOPE — After dropping 24% in one year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Baldwin County budget revenue estimates have grown to exceed 2020 levels for the fiscal year that starts Saturday, Oct. …
FAIRHOPE — After dropping 24% in one year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Baldwin County budget revenue estimates have grown to exceed 2020 levels for the fiscal year that starts Saturday, Oct. 1.
The Baldwin County Commission voted Tuesday, Sept. 20, to approve the budget for the 2023 fiscal year.
The new budget includes total revenue of $240.9 million, Ron Cink, budget director and interim county administrator, said. That is the first time that budget revenue projections topped the previous record of $225.8 million in 2020.
The overall budget has increased 32% since 2019, when the revenue projection was $181.7 million. In 2020, that total jumped 24% to $225.8 million. The following year, however, the 2021 total dropped back 24% to $181.9 million. Over the last two years, the total has increased about 15% a year.
"Since 2019, we're looking at a 32% increase," Cink said.
Cink said the county general fund, which includes salaries and government operations, increased more than most other funds in the last year as property tax revenue fueled by rising home prices increased.
"You're looking at about 21% versus a year ago," Cink told commissioners. "A major impact for revenue has been ad valorem. Sales tax also continues to show very good growth."
Ad valorem, property taxes, projections are up 25.4% for the 2023 budget at $61.26 million. Fees and charges increased 18.1% to $43.67 million, and sales taxes were up 14.1% to $22.97 million, Cink said.
As the county grows, expenses are also growing. General government salaries, which do not include the sheriff's office, increased from $27.54 million in 2019, when they were 17.2% of general fund expenses, to $50.63 million, 21.03% of the expenses.
Cink said infrastructure and growth will also increase costs as the population rises.
"All one needs to do is look around and see the number of people on the roads, the number of people at any of our facilities, the number of people at any of the events," Cink said.
He said that while revenue has bounced back from the drop during COVID-19, the county is still working to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and other events, such as Hurricane Sally in 2020.
He said the county is also working on other projects, such as the boat launch on the Intracoastal Waterway, which was scheduled to be dedicated Thursday, Sept. 29, and the planned recycling center.
"The commission is pursuing a recycle center known as a MRF, a materials recycle facility, just emphasizing the commission's commitment to the natural environment of our county and to maintaining a clean, healthy environment for the protection of our citizens," Cink said.
Commissioners praised the work done by Cink and other staff members to prepare the budget.
"A lot of hard work goes into it," Commissioner Charles "Skip" Gruber, finance chairman, said. "People don't realize what it takes to get to where we're at."
Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood said that while growth increases expenses, the changes have also provided money to deal with expansion.
"I'm thankful that we're in the position that we're in," she said. "Traveling throughout this state, not everybody is in the position that we're in, but we're also a fast-growing county and if we weren't in this position, we'd be in bad shape."
"I'm excited about the things that are happening right now and that we are in a position to move forward," she added.